When I was doing my graduate work in English, I studied under a professor named John Shields. His seminal work was titled The American Aeneas: Classical Origins of the American Self and it argued that the Founding Fathers modeled our country after the Roman virtues. George Washington, in his letter to the governors, explained that they should extol the citizens to honor God, mother’s, country. We now recognize God, mother, and country as the “American Way”. Shields argues that this is simply a recycling and tweakingof the Roman virtue Piatas, which is personified by Aeneas in Virgil’s epic The Aeneid, and also in Joseph Addison’s play Cato, a Tragedy which Washington had performed for the troops at Valley Forge. Piatas is the virtue of honoring the gods, the country, and the father.
I was entralled by the concept of piatas and the other Roman virtues I came to study, because it clarified for me the abstract idea of virtue. It helped me to understand the virtue of having set priorities, something that, for various reason, I struggled with when I was younger. I’ve come to learn that when one struggles with priorities, one struggles with making decisions as well.
I hate to admit that I still struggle in these areas. Sometimes, my priorities fall out of whack. Sometimes I forget about those priorities when it comes to making decisions and things go awry.
I don’t like that.
If the purpose of this thing I’ve been calling “The Consistency Project” (has kind of a Big Bang Theory-episode title-feel to it doesn’t it?) is to ‘better’ myself then I need to remain consistently true to my priorities. With that in mind, I sat down to review those priorities, to refresh, if you will, the mental computer. As I was was doing that, I stumbled across a quote in that serendipitous way that sometimes gives me chills. I have no idea who the speaker, David O. McKay, is but he’s speaking about the things that the Good Lord will hold us accountable for in the afterlife. McKay says:
“First, He will request an accountability report about your relationship with your wife. Have you actively been engaged in making her happy and ensuring that her needs have been met as an individual?
Second, He will want an accountability report about each of your children individually. He will not attempt to have this for simply a family stewardship but will request information about your relationship to each and every child.
Third, He will want to know what you personally have done with the talents you were given in the pre-existence.”
I think McKay laid out the perfect piatas for a guy like me or for any guy like me–wife, children, talent. Those are the three things that should, obviously, always come first in life if I wish to honor God. I love the connections that are inherent in a priority system like this. I’ve often heard that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother unconditionally. The best way for a father to make a wife happy is to foster healthy relationships with his children. And the best lesson a father could teach his children is to foster the talents that he has been blessed with, so that one day his children will do the same.
Yeah, I like that.
In truth, a priority list like this should kind of a given, but sometimes you need to be reminded, you know? What I think we also need to sometimes remind ourselves of, is something a reader reminded me of with the last post. She reminded me that to do anything well, one must remain loyal to another triumvirate of virtues. In order for someone to be a strong spouse, parent and nurturer of talent, a man (or a woman) must first be healthy in mind, body, and spirit.
That was such a great point.
So that’s the way I plan to approach, in broad terms, this “Consistency Project” – to consistently take care of my mind, body, and spirit so that I can adequately care for my wife, my children, and my talent.
What do you think?
Leave a comment and let me know.